LimeWire asks movie studios: Can you demonstrate that P2P cost you money?

The lawsuit against file sharing network LimeWire on behalf of six different movie and television studios has taken an unexpected turn with the news that the studios’ attempt for summary judgment may be stymied by LimeWire’s unexpected push back on the very subject that’s at the heart of the lawsuit: The question of whether illegal file sharing actually hurts movie profits at all.

LimeWare has been facing legal action from 20th Century Fox, Disney, Paramount, Warner Bros., Viacom (Parent company of Paramount, oddly enoughl it also owns MTV Films, Nickelodeon Movies and Viacom International, in terms of other movie studios) and Comedy Partners (Better known, perhaps as Comedy Central – Oddly, another Viacom property) since February of this year, when they filed suit declaring that LimeWire was responsible for a massive amount of lost profit for each studio via its making bootlegged and illegal copies of movies and shows available. “The scope of copyright infringement that occurred through LimeWire was staggering,” the original complaint stated. “Millions of users copied billions of files using LimeWire, and each time a user copied a file, that user obtained a permanent copy of copyrighted work without paying a penny to its owner.”

In response, LimeWire has one simple request to the studios: Prove it.

This shouldn’t be an entirely surprising move on LimeWire’s part. In fact, the company actually did exactly the same thing in an earlier lawsuit brought against it by music labels in 2010, arguing that record labels hand over accounting including royalty payments, contracts and even internal label documents that would prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that LimeWire was, in fact, responsible for lost revenue (Things went so far as to involve, who were at one point on the hook to provide internal accounting that demonstrated lower sales as proof of lower income for the labels). That lawsuit ended with a settlement that essentially put LimeWire out of business, but clearly the company believes that it’s worth a second go-round with the movie studios.

The movie studios aren’t having any of it, arguing that a judge’s ruling from the music label case that there was “overwhelming evidence that [the defendants] engaged in purposeful conduct that fostered [copyright] infringement” by offering a peer to peer file sharing network. LimeWire’s attorneys, however, argue that changes made to the file sharing system in 2009-2010 make earlier decisions about the nature of its business essentially meaningless, saying that “The LimeWire software program promoted in 2009-2010 was drastically different than that in years prior because of significant changes to LimeWire’s business intended to reduce or eliminate infringing uses of its software and network.”

The ball is now apparently in the Court’s hands; if it agrees with LimeWire’s request, it’ll be interesting to see what comes out of the studio’s attempts to demonstrate the dangers of downloading through more than just rhetoric.

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